Great leaders build their emotional courage
Part of being a leader is doing things that make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you need to raise a tough issue with a direct report, or maybe you have to handle negative pushback on a project. To improve the way you deal with uncomfortable situations, build your emotional courage. Start by thinking of a leadership skill you want to get better at: giving feedback, listening, being direct — whatever you want to grow in. Then practise that skill in a low-risk situation. For example, let’s say you want to get better at being direct. The next time there’s a mistake on your phone bill, call customer service and practice being succinct and clear. Notice how you want to react — get angry?
Backpedal? — And focus on resisting those impulses. These are the same feelings you’ll encounter in higher-risk situations at work, so learn to push through them. Continue to practice until you feel comfortable and can respond the way you’d like to.
(Adapted from “To Develop Leadership Skills, Practice in a Low-Risk Environment,” by Peter Bregman.)
Staying productive when not much is happening at work
It’s hard to stay productive when work is slow. If deadlines aren’t looming, it doesn’t take much to drift away from your to-do list and start reading the internet. There are a few ways you can keep getting things done. One is to turn a boring day into a series of mini sprints. Write down the three tasks you definitely want to get done today, and plan how much time you need for each. For example, by 11 am you’ll finish writing that memo, by 12 you’ll file the expense report, and by 2 you’ll send next week’s meeting agenda to your boss. Slow days are also great times to catch up with colleagues. Schedule lunch with someone you haven’t talked to for a while, or get coffee with a co-worker you want to know better. Another option is to use the time for professional development: update your résumé and LinkedIn page, take an online class or attend a conference. And don’t forget that taking a vacation is really good for you — maybe now’s the time.
(Adapted from “What to Do When Work Is Slow,” by Elizabeth Grace Saunders.)
If your star employee decides to leave, offer your support
No manager wants to lose a valued employee, but should you convince the person to stay if he or she wants to leave? If the person hasn’t already accepted an outside offer, try to find out more information. Take him out to coffee and ask about his concerns and hopes for the future. Also ask whether the employee is open to staying at the company, and what he would need to do so — more money, more career opportunities, better work-life balance? What isn’t he getting enough of in his current role and career path? There may be a solution the person hasn’t thought of. Offer what you can, within reason. On the other hand, if the employee is set on leaving, let him go gracefully. Congratulate him on the new job, and send him off on a positive note. After all, someday the person might be in a position to recommend (or not) your organization to future applicants.
(Adapted from “Should You Try to Convince a Star Employee to Stay?” by Art Markman.)
Hold your own networking event
Attending conferences and scheduling meetups are great ways to network, but they aren’t the only way. An often overlooked approach is organising a gathering yourself, which lets you be strategic about who you get to know. Think carefully about how many people you’ll invite and who they should be. It’s good to keep the event small, which makes it more intimate. One strategy is to bring people together who have something in common, which guarantees they have things to talk about. For instance, they could all be alumni of your alma mater, or tech industry folks, or women entrepreneurs. You could also just invite people who interest you. And think about the mix of personalities in the room. Your goals should be to ensure everyone is on equal footing and to create a great group dynamic. So if you know someone tends to dominate the conversation, leave him off the invite list.
(Adapted from “How to Plan Your Own Networking Event (and Invite the Right People),” by Dorie Clark.)
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, June 10th, 2019